Monday, 21 January 2013

Islam and Muslims in Sri Lanka and concerns of new trends in their religious development.

Hameed Abdul Kareem  wrote to the Daily News of the 19 January, 2013 “ Defending Islam and Muslims”  replying  to an article  by Shenali Waduge . She has foreseen such discontentment  in saying in her article  “….. the concerns of Buddhists are never given an unbiased voice in the mainstream media and instead Sinhalese Buddhists are labelled as “racist”, “extremist” and even “militant”.

Hameed Abdul Karim  does just that calling  Shenali Waduge’s article, “…  the latest in a long series of scaremongering…..uncalled for vituperative remarks…..and calling her  a version of Ausrtralia’s Pauline Hanson…”  .

I thank Shenali Waduge for her article , “‘Laws and Religion: Some Concerns of Sinhala Buddhists’  which appeared in the Daily News of the 12 January,2013.   It is time that Sinhala Buddhists make their voices heard without fearing to be called racists. Because it has become necessary  for the Sinhala Buddhists to stand up  to fight for their rights.

It had not been easy for Sinhala Buddhist.  They had been pushed into the background by the Colonialists. Their culture and religion  had been despised mutilated and dominated by Christianity and its missionaries.  The Sinhalese had  taken to foreign ways of living  and education was provided in foreign missionary schools. The Buddhists were converted to Christianity in large numbers by the missionaries who accompanied the  Colonial armies.

After independence the minorities demanded equal rights  along with the Sinhala Buddhists.  Their language was not accepted as the official language, their National flag was  mutilated to make it represent the minorities.   The Sinhala Buddhists had thus to keep on fighting to preserve what belonged to them.

It was under such circumstances  that mostly the Sinhala Buddhists had to sacrifice their youth to preserve the unitary status of Sri Lanka and free the country from 30 years of suffering under terrorism.  Despite that the Sinhala Buddhists are still prosecuted  just for elimination of terrorism and bringing back peace and hope to the country.  

For the Sinhala Buddhists  there are still more fighting to do.  It is now with the so far calm  and a peaceful Muslim Community who had been cooperating with  the Sinhala Buddhists .  The  Sri Lankan Muslims today are showing signs of change from what they had been before.  There is a new trend in their development which shows sign of foreign  fundamentalist Islamic influence gaining ground with them.

A short time back I was in Sri Lanka.  I witnessed this manifestation of “don’t care” attitude of  Muslims acting as  if there are no one in the  Sinhala areas where they have built three or four storied houses. They entertain, receive friends and relatives  who come in their cars vans and three wheelers through out the nights tooting horns , shouting and laughing without caring the least  that they are disturbing  the neighbourhood, the young children and the students who keep awake to do their home work.

The Muslims  live  in  Sinhala Buddhist neighbourhoods and slaughter animals in their homes  on certain Muslim  festive days with  least concern for the sensibility of their Buddhist neighbours.

I was told of a Sinhala Buddhist man who was employed in a Muslim Business establishment who had  to work from early in the morning  to late in the evening while the Muslim employers stop work to pray five time a day.  Yet this  Sinhala Buddhist employee was given only a day’s holiday for the Wesak festival.  He was compelled to  stay at home the following day to take the children to the temple and attend to Wesak festivities.  The day  after when he went to work  he was told that his services has been  terminated.

Having lived all my life until about 1963 in a village next to a Muslim village in the Kandy District, studying with Muslim children some of them  as my best friends, I found  during my  recent  stay in Sri Lanka the change of attitude of the Muslims strange,  and altogether different from what it had been when I knew them a long time ago.

Mr.Hameed Abdul Karim says, “ Ideally in a democracy there is no such thing as minority…..”  Yes of course , there is no reason to treat minorities differently if they do not compete with the majority;  if the minorities accept the same flag,  the same language and the national anthem in the language of the majority.  But it has not been the case with the Muslims in Sri Lanka, they want more  pushing their religion and its ways  unconcerned  of the Sinhala Buddhists.

In this hitherto unknown new trend in the Muslim development in Sri Lanka, the Muslims of Sri Lanka themselves should take note of  unknown forces  of dangerous fundamentalism taking hold of the Muslims and Islamism of Sri Lanka.

In France there are no separate schools for the Muslim children.  France  banned  the use of face covering veils for girls,  and the full body covering  Burqa,  wearing of which is really a denial of the freedom of Muslim women under Sharia law or not,  is also prohibited in France.  In France there are no separate courts for the Muslims, and there is a law  against female genital mutilation of  Muslim girls.

In France there is no blaring of loudspeakers five times a day in  the Mosques to call the believers for prayers. 

In Sri Lanka the Muslims have been accorded all these  facilities as Shenali Waduge had correctly pointed out in  her article against which Hameed Abdul Karim had taken umbrage.   The Muslims are carrying on a silent movement encroaching into   the rights and priviledges  of the Sinhala Buddhists  to their advantage, desecrating  Sri Lanka which had been offered to  the Buddha, Dhamma his Doctrine and the Sangha his disciples by King Devanampiyatissa even before  Islam had come into existence as a religion.

This is what democracy has given to Sri Lanka, an ungrateful minority asking for equality with the majority.  Strangely this democracy Hameed Abdul Karim refers to does not exist in predominantly Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries of the Middle East. Sharia Law, Fatwa and Jihad are a far cry from democracy.   That is what people like Hameed Abdel Karim wants in Sri Lanka.

The Muslims the world over  are using their religion to prepare a political system with a world leadership secretly in view, increase the Muslim population  through births and conversion.

Hameed Abdul Karim does not seem to be aware even of the vandalising of ancient Buddhist sites and bulldozing of Digavapi and  occupying temple land  by Muslims.

Hameed highlights the cases of Buddhist treasure hunters, to down play the  occupation of Buddhist land by Muslims.  There was the recent case of a Mosque being built on temple land in Dambulla.   Racism is different from being concerned about the erosion of the rights and priviledges of the Sinhala Buddhists. 

Jathika Hela Urumaya  was criticised for the Buddhist Monks taking to politics, but  JHU was fulfilling a necessary role  for the defence of the Sinhala Buddhists, Buddhism and its priviledges, which had been left  without protection. The Sinhala Buddhists should be made aware of the  necessity of a Buddhist political movement like the JHU to defend the rights and priviledges of the Buddhists and protect what belongs to the Buddhists.

In a like situation  in 1950 when Buddhism was under attack by the Catholic Church, we had a strong  dedicated Sinhala Buddhist leadership which  lost no time to come forward to defend  the rights of the Sinhala Buddhists by organising  the  Bauddha Jathika Balawegaya..  Today such a Buddhist leadership  has become an imperative necessity. 

The new movement of a Muslim  leadership in Sri Lanka is becoming a  threat to Sinhala Buddhists.  It demands the revival of the Bauddha Jathika Balawegaya.  Even if any Sinhala Buddhist who comes forward to defend their cause is immediately  attacked as a Sinhala racist- a Pauline Hanson, it has nevertheless become a necessity for Sinhala Buddhists to be  alive to  the lurking danger to their existence as Sinhala Buddhists.

Sharia Law,  as correctly pointed out by  Shenali Waduge is perhaps good for  Muslim countries , whose entire social , economic and judicial  processes are dependent on the Quran. But they are not necessary for Sri Lanka or any country in the world with a small resident Muslim Community.   We have had a good example of the short coming of the Sharia Law in the recent beheading of  Rizana Nafeek.  She had no translator to represent her in the Sharia Courts. There was no post mortem on the body of the dead baby. There was a complete absence of transparency. There was no witness. There was no lawyer to defend her.   Is that the Sharia law ?

Hameed Abdul Karim  defends what he cannot defend  in saying, “I am not an expert on Sharia but I think she is absolutely off the mark when she says that a non-Muslim cannot appear in Sharia courts to give evidence. ”

Hameed is just groping in the dark making meaningless  remarks such as “I think she is absolutely off the mark” trying to  defend the Sharia law which he himself admits to know nothing about.  This they call is an argument for argument’s sake.  The Sri Lanka Muslims should remain what they had always been without allowing themselves to be  caught  by the foreign  Islamic fundamentalist forces, becoming pawns in their hands.

Even if all the Muslims in Sri Lanka  were to be  carried away by the  Islamic fundamentalist  forces there will be at least one Muslim family in Sri Lanka which will not give into fundamentalism to accept the Sharia Law - the family of late Rizana Nafeek.

As it had been pointed out in Shenali Waduge’s article we cannot understand why the Muslims in Sri Lanka who  have an identity of their own as Sri Lankan Muslims   suddenly taken to establishment of Sharia Courts  and halaal food labelling.   Even if the Muslims in Sri Lanka followed these from the beginning of time, they had been doing it without  being a “nuisance” to others.  It is only now that they make a hue and cry about it, trying to impose it on non believing compatriots.
These are irksome matters where the Muslims claim a different identity when the need is for reconciliation and living with harmony with all communities.  It is ridiculous to call it “ Islamaphobie” when  some one  sees danger signals  in  new format of  religious evolutions  that  do not augur well for Sinhala Buddhists, and the country as a whole. 

It is normal that people like Hameed Abdul Karim may take offence, but some one has to give warning signals, if there is danger for others.  Hameed Abdul Karim has tried to answer some of the questions , but the situation cannot be settled by taking offence over real facts highlighted in  Shenali Waduge’s article.

These matters are serious,   the article of Shenali W       aduge should not be read and forgotten, as it is necessary that the Sinhala Buddhist Leaders awaken to the danger and begin a movement  like the Bauddha Jathika Balavegaya of  late Mr. L.H.Mettananda, to react to the situation without allowing it to take a larger proportion, and go out of control.

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